Kevin Hocker exclusively works within the federal market. With over 8,000 one on one meetings with federal employees, he brings a wealth of knowledge to our podcast. He stresses the importance of education when it comes to helping people understand their benefits and their overall retirement outlook. Hocker shares how he interacts with clients, some of the challenges he faces, and what he sees as difference makers in people's lives.
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Edward Dressel: 0:02
Welcome everybody to another podcast from RetireReady Solutions. It's a pleasure to have Kevin Hocker here. Welcome, Kevin. Nice to have you here this morning.
Kevin Hocker: 0:10
Hey, great. Thanks for having me.
Edward Dressel: 0:12
You bet. Why don't you let everybody know a little bit about yourself, your business and what it looks like?
Kevin Hocker: 0:17
So, you know, just quick bullet points on that. I'm very, very exclusively focused on working with the federal market. I just believe that specialization in one area is able to bring a much better result to the clients and people that I help and work with. I've probably sat down and met with over 8,000 individual one on one meetings with federal employees to help them figure out their benefits, do their retirement paperwork, serve as their HR-- just about anything that a federal employee could need, we're able to assist them with it.
Edward Dressel: 0:54
You're located in the great state of Colorado with a large number of federal employees. So that helps. Kevin, tell me a little bit about your business.
Kevin Hocker: 1:03
Okay, so, you know, with the specialization with federal employees, I'm based in Colorado, and really, there's a network of us that all work together through doing conventions all over the country, one on one meetings, and ultimately, we're just HR support for federal employees. We help them optimize their benefits, make sure they're on track for retirement, make sure they're on track with all of their benefits: confirming their retirement eligibility, calculating their pension, best time to retire, buying back military time--anything tied to federal employees we help them with. And then with our network, Nationwide, we have former federal employees, several of them on our team in CPA capacity and HR capacity for really difficult, tough situations where we could be a liaison, even with OPM and help them get answers that they need.
Edward Dressel: 2:00
That network sounds like a great idea. Is that open to other advisers?
Kevin Hocker: 2:03
Yeah, it sure is.
Edward Dressel: 2:05
Okay. If they're interested, contact you, I would guess.
Kevin Hocker: 2:08
Right, right. I could put him in touch with you know, the right department to talk about that.
Edward Dressel: 2:15
So, in working with federal employees, what obstacles do you find in your business?
Kevin Hocker: 2:20
I think the biggest obstacles that I really find in my business is people just not being aware. I guess it goes back to you don't know what you don't know. What I find just on a daily basis, practically, is many of them are just not clear where they stand with their overall financial picture in terms of how all their benefits come together. Many people don't know if they're eligible to retire, when they're eligible to retire, or if they do know those things, they're not sure exactly what their bottom line income is going to be, how everything is going to work. And there's people that'll put off retirement literally, just because they don't understand those pieces. And that's a big obstacle for sure.
Edward Dressel: 3:00
Absolutely. And how do you engage them towards retirement success? What do you do to overcome that obstacle?
Kevin Hocker: 3:08
Really, It's about, you know, it's about education. It all starts with education. A quote from one of my mentors a long time ago, you know, he said something along the lines of, "My level of financial security would be in direct proportion to my financial literacy." And then when I started studying and learning and growing more and more in that area, I found out that he was quite right. In school, they taught us and teach how to work for money, but they don't teach how to have money work for us. And I just find that a lot of federal employees are exposed to severe planning mistakes not because of really a lack of information, but just a misunderstanding of the information that is available. And all the co workers--I've just seen people get absolutely incorrect--devastatingly incorrect--information from coworkers, and they've taken action on that advice
Edward Dressel: 4:03
That can create problems. What do you do to provide--you talked about the different parts that they have for retirement and, you know, maybe military, and maybe they got their TSP--what do you do for an integrated benefit analysis to show them a picture of what retirement looks like?
Kevin Hocker: 4:19
So the the way I put those benefits together first is just changing their mind set. They really have to understand that there's two phases of retirement. There's, you know, the accumulation phase and the distribution phase, and the biggest challenge people make is going from one phase to the other without having their money go from one phase to another. And so it really starts with planning. Income planning. So everyone that I sit down with to help put all the pieces of the puzzle together--it really is through the filter of, we have to have a retirement income plan. A retirement income plan is really a road map for your money in retirement. You know, it's--an analogy I like to use with this is, an income plan does for your financial security what a blueprint does for a building. You wouldn't start building without a blueprint. And you shouldn't start spending in retirement without a retirement income plan. And the TRAK Software is what allows me to put all those pieces together.
Edward Dressel: 5:18
So tell me a little bit about how you use TRAK with with your clients.
Kevin Hocker: 5:23
So the way I use TRAK and what I love about TRAK is it is very comprehensive, and it accounts for all the pieces. So number one it includes the federal benefits software. So if somebody's a FERS a CSRS, CSRS offset--whatever it might be we're able to populate the retirement system that they're in within the software. It also accounts for taxes--both federal and state--life expectancy, inflation and so we're able to look at the entire picture and bring all the pieces together and account for everything to find out how far all of our pieces will go in terms of our income and retirement. It allows us to identify mistakes. Many times, people can't see where they stand very clearly, and this shines a light on our whole picture. So we know exactly where we stand and whether it's safe to retire or maybe we should work longer. It gives us all the information that we need to make the right decisions.
Edward Dressel: 6:23
How do your clients respond when they see the integrated benefit analysis?
Kevin Hocker: 6:28
I see people's physiology change right in front of me. They go, they come in and many times are, you know, nervous about just what they're gonna find out or what things look like. And they leave with such clarity, and I just I see a weight fall right off of their shoulders because they go from complete uncertainty in some regards. I mean, they know they have federal benefit package, and they know they get a pension and they know they get these things, but they aren't quite sure how it all ties together, what the bottom line is, and is it sustainable for their retirement income? And how is everything with their benefits work in retirement versus how it works when they're working. And so to see how that comes together in one snapshot of one page gives them incredible insight and relief and peace of mind.
Edward Dressel: 7:20
So not having 100 pages is beneficial?
Kevin Hocker: 7:22
Edward Dressel: 7:24
So when you sit down with the client, are you handing them a report, or do you interactively walk through the software with them and show them where they're at?
Kevin Hocker: 7:32
I interactively walk them through the software. In fact, I show them what I call the guts of the software. I want them to see every little thing that we're putting in, so they realize that it accounts for everything and so they can see exactly where we're getting the numbers from and the calculations and how it all comes together. And then we'll do examples because if there's one thing that I really try to make people aware of and try to even demonstrate inside the software when we're doing interactive, is that how little changes can make a big difference. And so if you think about, you know, a ship that starts off sailing--if it's one degree off course, this one degree off course over time, it will find itself hundreds of miles off course. Well, the spin down of our money is very similar. If we don't know where we stand and where our budget really needs to be dialed into we can appear okay, but over time, we can really be off track and deplete our assets way too soon. And that's probably what I love the most about this software is it really helps us. It's kind of like, baseball is a game of inches. Our finances is a game of inches, and this really allows us to win and play that game that way because we'll see, "Wow, if we just adjust the budget down 200 bucks, that can make the difference from running out and deplete an asset at maybe 70 versus maybe 82. And so I'm able to show people exactly where they need to be and monitor that, too. We haven't really, you know, we haven't talked about that at all yet, but that's a big part of it too--monitoring it along the way. Anything that happens in the real financial life happens in the software, and that's how we're able to keep tabs on, you know, my spending--maybe a little too much now? Am I spending, could I be spending more? How are things progressing and tracking? Because there's a lot of threats that we're faced with, especially as federal employees, as we move through retirement.
Edward Dressel: 9:34
So I think--and we'll go back to the interactivity bit--but because most of the software out there isn't designed to be interactive, when a client can bring up their questions and concerns and you can make the changes in the software and answer their questions, what kind of response or buy in do you get from a client?
Kevin Hocker: 9:50
The excitement, I guess. Excitement because they--I don't think that they realized that there was a tool and that there was such simplicity tied to something so comprehensive and complex. When we talk about retirement income planning and you figure we've got TSPs, 401ks, social securities, you know, spouses, pieces that may go in there, medicare eventually, health insurance--we've got all these moving parts, and it can be a very complex area of planning to bring all that together. And so when we're able to look at it and in one shot, it'--it's excitement. It's "Wow, I didn't realize that it could be this easy to get everything coordinated and isolated and clear."
Edward Dressel: 10:34
What difference does it make when the client understands what you're communicating?
Kevin Hocker: 10:38
Confidence. I think they have confidence. That's--that's the number one thing that I see. Most people have a lot of anxiety and concerns around retirement and, you know, just "Are we going to run out of money?" and they don't really know where they stand. And this gives them a lot of confidence about being able to see their picture and people retire. And they exit federal service excited and happy rather than kind of crossing their fingers and not knowing where they really stand and if everything is going to be okay,
Edward Dressel: 11:10
How is our solution, The Retirement Analysis Kit, or what you referred to as TRAK how does it help your practice?
Kevin Hocker: 11:17
I literally don't think I could or would do the work I do right now without it, because it goes back to the, if I ran a construction company, I wouldn't let the crew operate without a blueprint. And this is what helps me design the blueprints for the clients of their spen down. And so it's made a much bigger impact and given them a holistic, holistic view. So I couldn't do it, wouldn't do it if I didn't have this tool because I wouldn't be able to give them the deliverable in the way that I'm able to. And the quick ability to track and monitor over the years is a big bonus as well. If somebody calls up and says,"Hey, you know, we're thinking about remodeling the house for 30,000," the first thing we do is look at if we pull that out, what's it do to the whole picture? What kind of tax liability? Might we increase? Should we pull from taxable or non-taxable funds depending what our overall picture is? So those alternative scenarios that we can look at if somebody says, you know, we need to increase our budget $400. We just had to buy a new car. We go in there and make that adjustment, and in real time we can actually see what are the impact of what our decisions can have for us. Because what I found is, you know, many times errors don't show up for years and years and years and then it's too late to resolve them. We're able to go in, make adjustments and say, "If we do this, this is how it's actually gonna affect us." And when you're in retirement, that's invaluable: to see the effect of that.
Edward Dressel: 12:59
Well, Kevin, I appreciate you taking the time today in the interview and in this podcast. I appreciate the comments and the kind words you have, and I really wish you the best with working with federal employees as you help them retire successfully.
Kevin Hocker: 13:10
Great, Thanks a lot.